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1st February, 2017

Caldera, Costa Rica

I prick my ears up whenever I hear there is a tour that involves a railway journey, so after an ‘educational’ docking in Caldera, the most important commercial port on the Pacific coast of Cost Rica, Mrs R and I joined the ‘Pacific Railroad and Country Life’ excursion.

This railway is effectively defunct, as an earthquake in 1991 destroyed much of the network that crosses the country from Pacific to Atlantic. In recent years however, it was recognised that the burgeoning cruise trade could be a source of income. Ten miles of narrow gauge track have been ‘reconditioned’ as have two carriages and a diesel locomotive so that around sixty passengers can take a ride through the lush tropical countryside.

This was no luxury train and the open windows allowed ‘conditioned air’ not air conditioning to bring in all the aromas of the country. The slow, not quite so smooth, passage along tracks that were laid many years ago was a delight. The driver stopped the train from time to time so that we could observe Howler Monkeys in the trees (they do), and as we passed the back of many small holdings children would come out to wave at the passing turistas. We saw much of rural life that may be considered by some as being the real Costa Rica, at times giving us the impression that the local folk were quite poor. In fact our superb guide explained that these people may appear less ‘well off’, but they own the land on which they make a living, the state takes care of all educational costs, ensuring all children attend school from a young age and all medical costs are also covered.

After well over an hour we transferred to a coach and headed for Molas where a large shop dedicated to selling authentic Costa Rican crafts, also offered tasting of local coffee and liquors. Ideally located near the loos, there was a que of Saganauts a little uncertain which to try first. We have relieved a talented artist of a charming small painting, an orchid that is apparently destined for the wall of the Rentell conservatory. I was reminded that I must make sure to be careful with the watering can when finally consigned to domestic duties.

After motoring further through the foothills we eventually came to the old town of Esparza, an original Spanish settlement, where young children were waiting in colourful traditional costume ready to perform a few folkloric dances which depicted life as it used to be many years ago. Interesting, despite the resigned look on the odd young face and some strange goings on with a papier-mȃché bulls head.

Captain Philip Rentell

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